Online Dating

When One Plus One Equals Zero

In our parents’ generation, the only way to meet new people was to approach them face-to-face and strike up a conversation. Growing up, we saw online communications and chat rooms like ICQ and instant messengers starting to emerge, suddenly making the world smaller. Making friends with people from all over the country is suddenly within reach; however, we still tread around it with much caution. The only thing we would have probably dared to give another person over the Internet was our email address.

Today, with the rapid advance of technology, it’s easier than ever to “meet” new people. In the context of dating, many singles can turn to a lot of online dating sites and dating apps to introduce themselves to other singles from elsewhere – without having to actually “talk” to them. Now it’s all about “swiping”. We can e-meet or swipe tens if not hundreds of profiles a night.

Online Dating

Credit: Teerarat Yaemngamluea

Is engaging someone in an actual conversation becoming a thing of the past? Yes – you’ve heard a lot of stories about couples meeting through online dating or dating apps and that’s wonderful. Yet, on the flip side, you’ve also heard of the horror trends of dating such as catfishing, ghosting, breadcrumbing – and, the latest I’ve recently heard, submarining.

“Catfishing” is using a fictional persona to lure someone into a relationship; “ghosting” is to suddenly disappear without warning or explanation; “breadcrumbing” is to string someone along who is interested in you until you find someone better; and “submarining” is to resurface into someone’s life after you’ve ghosted them.

Trust me, I hadn’t realized what any of these meant until my associates filled me in. So despite being an avid enthusiast of all things tech, I’d still be the first to admit that technology also has made dating more complicated.

The implication is that there has been a major change in our society, or rather an obvious shift in the behavior of the millennials. We judge people based on superficial reasons, we take others for granted and, at times, treat them more like objects simply because we can. After all, it’s just another profile, and there are a lot more others waiting in the queue.

Yes, having many options sounds great. But it doesn’t make it easier for singles to find love. When we have too many choices, we do not know who to choose from, or who to focus on. And how scary it is to think that it’s that easy to miss out on your special someone – since we are bombarded with an abundance of potentials on a daily basis.

What happens when people swipe right on someone (“swipe right” means to consider meeting the person while “swipe left” is the opposite) they have just chatted for a day before deciding to meet up. I have met singles who lined up dates with people they’d met online on the same day. Meet Match #1 for lunch, Match #2 for coffee and Match #3 for drinks! And this scenario is surprisingly common and not at all unique. One of my favorite shows, Master of None featured this in one of their episodes: the repeated cycle of online dating which results in diminishing pleasure. Dates are turning into a commodity – and that’s the era we are living in right now.

Another change would be the mode of communication. In the past, the main mode of communication for dating was the phone. Now, singles hardly call each other. They would usually only text each other before and after a date. And these WhatsApp chats are actually like “mini dates”. In between the online interaction and an offline date, people might end up being ghosted and not even realize why.

Because we don’t even have to “talk” to each other in the real sense of the word, it’s so easy for singles to pretend to be someone they are not. Imagine how dangerous this can be. We’ve heard of those criminal cases involving internet romance cons targeting lonely hearts because of how little to none verification is needed to create a dating profile or even a false identity, and how vulnerable singles actually can be. You think you are talking to someone that looks like this, who holds this type of job, and has this type of qualifications – and that person could be someone entirely different. We won’t be able to know, of course, until you meet the person face-to-face.

According to a dating survey of 500 singles in Thailand that we recently conducted, almost 40% of them have been matched with fake profiles. The number is even higher in other parts of Asia (as high as 47% in Hong Kong, 60% in Malaysia and 71% in Singapore!).

I may have painted a very gloomy picture for the singles who are using online dating sites or dating apps, but whether they are the right platform for you to look for a “happily-ever-after” love story really depends on how you use them to your advantage. What I hope you can take away from this is to exert caution when you’re navigating your way through the maze of online dating landscape.

Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. I believe that whatever platform you may use, the objective should be to help you get offline as soon as possible to have an actual date. For some of you, here’s a crazy thought, the next time you see someone you’d like to get to know better, just walk up to them and say – *drum rolls* – “Hello!”

Nikki Assavathorn is the founder of MeetNLunch, one of the biggest and most trusted dating companies in Thailand.